An Introduction to Networking
To network is to connect with professionals and cultivate a mutually beneficial relationship. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about potential careers, pathways to break into an industry, and skills for success. Networking can be helpful in clarifying your career interests and may even help you learn of open jobs in your field or preferred organization. Networking is an important piece of your career development, you never know who you might meet that could connect you to an opportunity you never expected.
The Professional Development Plan is a required element of a student's Comprehensive Exam and includes a section on "Networking & Mentoring". We ask you to identify and describe networks and professionals that are already or may soon support your career goals, your efforts to engage with these networks or mentors, what meetings/ conferences you plan to attend and what informational interviews you plan to complete.
This page will help you identify best practices in cultivating relationships, find opportunities to network, tips for how to network in-person and virtually and includes example questions to help you start conversations.
Networking is more than meeting someone one time. You should maintain touch with your contacts consistently. That might be connecting via LinkedIn, email, or in-person.
Your mentor(s) invest their time and energy into helping you. Be sure to keep them updated! They want to know if you got that internship or job you applied to, how the new position is going, how your projects are going at school, how a conversation went with someone they introduced you to, etc.
When a mentor introduces you to a new professional contact, always make sure that you respond! If you ignore the introduction, it can leave a poor impression. After you connect with the new contact, let your mentor know how it went.
In general, you should make sure you respond promptly to mentors or professional contacts.
Don't leave a conversation sitting in your inbox for two months before responding. If you do need to take some time before continuing a conversation or acting on advice, let them know.
- Develop a meaningful relationship with your professional contact.
- How do you do this? Start by getting to know them! Ask what they do, what are their interests both professionally and outside of work, and ensure they know the same about you. You can see a list of questions to get you started below.
- This is an important step before you start asking any favors. Most people will want to get to know you before making introductions or doing other favors for you. Also, listen for opportunities where you might be able to help them. The relationship should be reciprocal.
- Meet people that might work outside your direct area of interest.
- They may give you a new viewpoint that you’d never considered. Environmental work is intersectional, there’s a lot of room for collaboration. They also may be able to connect you with people you would not otherwise meet.
- Always thank them for their time.
- Always thank your professional connections for their time and advice.
Here are a few common ways EPM students find networking opportunities.
- Your job/ internship
- Make connections with people you work with (colleagues, supervisors, contacts from other departments). Look for other professional events you could go to as part of your job (conferences, awards ceremonies, etc).
- Fellow EPM students
- See the EPM Networking Crowdsource document here. This spreadsheet is a list of your fellow EPM students, past and present, and the professional connections they have.
- EPM Events
- You can network with faculty, program staff, your fellow students, alumni, External Advisory Committee, Policy Clinic partners. Association of Environmental Professionals at UC Davis student chapter and local Superior chapter events.
- Professional Development Seminar (PDS)
- Each quarter, the PDS hosts guest speakers from on and off campus. After the class session, take advantage of any opportunity to introduce yourself to a speaker. Make sure your elevator pitch is prepared!
- Other seminars
- There are many seminars offered on campus through different departments. These seminars can give you access to new faculty and professional contacts.
- Other professional events
- Professional organizations often have networking events you can attend. You can see a list of professional organizations you might be interested in joining here.
You want to make sure that you are making your best impression when you're attending a networking event. Here are some tips:
- Dress appropriately.
If you are unsure what is appropriate for the event, check with event organizers what the dress expectation is. Most EPM events are business casual. If you aren't sure, see our guide here (link coming soon).
- Do your homework.
Check to see if there is a list of who will be attending the event. You can get an idea of who you would like to speak with and take some time to learn what their background is. If you have something in common with them, it could be a good way to start a conversation.
- Prepare an elevator speech and questions to ask (see below).
You should prepare a quick, 30-second synopsis of your resume that defines who you are professionally. You should include your name, whether you’re a first or second year EPM student, area of interest/ specialization and why you are attending this event specifically.
- Be sure to ask relevant questions.
You can see a list of questions to ask below.
If the conversation goes well, you could ask if there are opportunities within the organization for a practicum or job or if there are other contacts you could be connected to.
Ending the conversation.
Be sure to thank the people you’ve met for their time and keep the door open for future contact. You can ask them for their email address if you don’t already have it.
Make sure you follow up and send a thank you note to all the professionals you met. Personalize each email. Include something from your conversation at the event.
Some networking events are still held virtually. Virtual events can give you access to professionals that are not local and allow you to geographically broaden your network. Many of the tips are the same for in-person events, but there are a few extra things you should do before the event to make sure you are prepared.
- Zoom connection.
Test your camera, microphone and internet connection. Make sure your background is appropriate. Try to find a neutral background with no clutter or distractions. You can also use a virtual background or background blur.
Lighting is also important. Try to find an area where you can face a window to give you the best natural lighting. Make sure that your camera is straight on and not at an awkward angle.
Even though it is a virtual event and no one can tell if you are wearing pajama pants, we still recommend you get fully dressed in appropriate attire (though you can skip the shoes if you want).
Do your homework.
- Having background information will help you know which breakout room you want to prioritize attending.
Prepare your elevator speech.
- See above.
- Ending the conversation.
- Prepare for the end of the breakout session. There's usually a timer at the top of the screen that will tell you how much time you have left.
Be sure to thank the people you've met for their time and keep the door open for future contact. You can ask them for their email address if you don't already have it. I
- What do you do for [organization name]?
- What is your background in?
- What type of education or background do you need to get into a job like that?
- What type of professional or personal skills does it take to succeed in this kind of work?
- Could you tell me about one of the main challenges you face in this position?
- What is your favorite part of the job?
- Why did you come to [event name]?
- What do you wish you had known about your position/ field before you started?
- Are there any professional organizations you recommend that I join?
- If I am interested in learning more, do you recommend that I enroll in any particular classes?
- If I am interested in learning more, are there any books that you would recommend?
- Is there anyone you would recommend that I talk to next? When I do speak with them, may I mention you referred me?